7/25, For Trump and Hannity, the delta smelt controversy is not simply about water in California. Found only in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, the smelt is an indicator species that shows the health of the ecosystem. On October 14, Restore the Delta shared a thread from Caleb Scoville Ph.D., Asst. “At the end of the day, sure, it’s just a crummy little fish and there aren’t a lot of them left,” he says. Instead, the largest spike in public interest in the delta smelt by far is in September 2009, when Hannity held his exposé on Fox News. Is Coca Cola helping the environment? In spite of portraying their administrations as “green,” Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom did nothing to reverse the slide towards extinction. The agency touted “smarter delta operations through real-time adaptive management and greater management oversight of delta pumping operations informed by updated science” to help the smelt and other endangered species recover even as the mammoth state and federal pumps drained more water out of the ecosystem. At the helm, Christopher Jasper, a graduate student, motors forward, dragging the trawl down the slough for five minutes. Or hurting? Shortly after the new biological opinions were released, Westlands concluded negotiations to permanently lock in its water service contract, which entitles them to 1.15m acre-feet of water per year – about twice what the city of Los Angeles uses annually. Delta smelt are often portrayed in the media as the useless fish responsible for farmers losing crops and jobs. Fish headed toward the machinery are corralled with nets and redirected to collection tanks, where they’re catalogued before being trucked back into other parts of the estuary. The smelt inhabits the boundary between fresh and salt water in the Delta, where ocean tides that bring saltwater into the estuary from the Pacific Ocean meet freshwater flows from California's rivers. “It is so ridiculous they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea.” That night, Trump promised the farmers more water. It is an endemic species that is on verge of extinction, largely because it is in direct competition with people for water. Durand says he’s sick of talking about delta smelt. Delta Smelt and Water Politics in California February 13, 2018 Journal Reviews The Delta Smelt Hypomesus transpacificus is a small translucent fish that lives in the heart of California’s water distribution system. Lovely! Because most Delta smelt live for just one year, even temporary environmental changes can decimate the population. Interest in the species does not track its effect on water policy. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. The striped bass and largemouth bass are invaders, as are Mississippi silversides, which feed on smelt eggs and young – though scientists have contested whether these predators are responsible for smelt declines. The delta is the most contentious body of water in California, pulled in all directions by powerful interests. Delta smelt: the tiny fish caught in California's war with Trump Harbingers of a diminishing ecosystem, the smelt are almost extinct. At a March 2016 campaign rally in Fresno, California – in the state’s agricultural heartland – then presidential candidate Trump mocked the environmentalists who were desperate “to protect a certain kind of three-inch fish”. Durand chuckles and combs his fingers through his white goatee. For conservationists and ecologists like Durand, the delta smelt are harbingers, their diminishing numbers a signal that the delta’s ecosystem is dangerously close to collapse. On Thursday, the Trump administration released its final environmental impact statement on the pumping plan, which claims to manage water in an “environmentally and economically sound manner”. For Trump and Hannity, the delta smelt controversy is not simply about water in California. We cover climate change, clean energy, solar power, healthy food, and the national and local politics and policy that make it all possible. “You cannot apply saltwater to farmland. The Delta Smelt (family Osmeridae) is one of a suite of fishes endemic to California’s Central Valley, most of which are in decline (Moyle 2002; Moyle et al. “Even if the smelt disappeared, and we no longer had to worry about protecting them, it’s not like we could get much more water out of the system.”. It’s unclear how many smelt are left in the estuary. But it’s been four years since Durand and his team of researchers from the University of California, Davis, have found the finger-length fish that gleam golden and “smell kind of like cucumber” in the brackish streams and sloughs of northern California’s bay delta. 18/25, Hannity and other conservative elites outside of California used the delta smelt’s small size and uncharismatic appearance to suggest that liberals in faraway cities care more about a “stupid little fish” than ordinary Americans. Learn how your comment data is processed. You've probably never heard of it. 21/25, Scientists argue that the decline of the delta smelt is a warning sign that California’s relationship with water is unsustainable. 15/25, Hannity’s focus on the delta smelt brought the species out of obscurity, making it a symbol for all that was supposedly wrong with California, liberals, and environmentalism. (Full article here: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8mh3r97j…) 14/25, Why all the focus on the delta smelt, then? That’s what the Romans did to punish their enemies.”In most years between 2011 and 2018 – at peak drought – maintenance issues, and a lack of storage capacity limited pumping more than the smelt did, as did protections for other threatened and endangered fish. Here it is a thread, I was bombarded w/ messages about Trump’s claims about California water & a “certain little tiny fish,” the delta smelt, the topic of my dissertation & current book project. First, it shows that the proportion of water being extracted for human use from the San Francisco Bay watershed has increased, rather than decreased in recent decades 12/15, Second, it shows that during the 2012-16 drought, protections of the delta smelt accounted for a minuscule constraint on water project exports in California (only 1.2% of actual water flowing through the Delta to the San Francisco Bay). Underlying many of these issues is the climate crisis, which has fueled extended periods of drought and heatwaves that have made the waters uncomfortably warm for smelt, and other species struggling to survive in a shifting delta ecosystem. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has finalized a plan that threatens the Delta smelt, salmon and other fish species even more than they already are by maximizing Delta water exports to corporate agribusiness interests in the San Joaquin Valley. Then the crew lifts the net up, splashes the contents into a bucket. “The next generations of Californians deserve nothing less.”. Ever since then, his administration has been making moves to make good on that pledge. The delta smelt lives in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the West Coast's largest estuary that supplies water to Central Valley farms and millions of Southern California residents. © 2015   Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc. Red State Voices and Blue State Voices coming together for GREEN, Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window), Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window). California has a new endangered species on its hands in the San Joaquin Valley—farmers. “I read the criticisms of the new biological opinions,” he says. It will be interesting to see if 2020 will be the third year the smelt goes missing from the fall CDFW survey, but we won’t find out the results until late December of this year. As the one journalist in the country who has covered the demise of the Delta smelt for over 30 years, as well exposing in article after article the underlying cause of the Delta smelt’s march toward towards extinction — deep regulatory capture by corporate agribusiness and other Big Money interests — it’s good to see when somebody else takes interest in the issue. Protections have sometimes placed limits on water extracted from its habitat, although far less than is often claimed. 4/25, This area, known locally as “the Delta,” is the lynchpin of California’s water system. For California farmers with thousands of acres to irrigate and millions of dollars on the line, the smelt are in the way – the state listed the species as endangered in 2009, and in effect constrained how much water can be pulled from the delta. He helped create it. 5/25, Commentators swooped in to point out the seemingly “bizarre” nature of Trump’s claim, e.g. Dung from these cows, and runoff from the nut orchards and fruit farms a few yards inland infuse nutrients into the water that triggers algal blooms. Because they want to take care of certain little tiny fish.’, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8mh3r97j…. Even if they could, turning down the pumps isn’t quite as easy as shutting off a faucet. Delta smelt nears extinction The survival of a tiny fish, the delta smelt, is threatened by a lack of freshwater flows to its habitat. CALIFORNIA / Delta smelt numbers plunge / Debate over state's pumping of water after only 25 found Patrick Hoge , Chronicle Staff Writer May 22, 2007 Updated: Jan. 17, 2012 7:36 p.m. 11/25, A systematic scientific analysis of restrictions on Delta water use refutes these claims. “The problem is, while they’re going through that system of canals, or waiting in a truck, they’re exposed to all these other fish, all these predators that are happily snacking on them the whole time,” says Jon Rosenfield, a fish biologist at San Francisco Baykeeper, an environmental watchdog group. “Where do we draw the line?” Durand says. Harbingers of a diminishing ecosystem, the smelt are almost extinct. businessinsider.com, However, the President’s statement, while factually incorrect, was far from unusual. In response, the federal reclamation commissioner, Brenda Burman, derided Newsom’s preference “to have judges dictate these important projects instead of the career professionals at the federal and state levels who have developed a plan based on the best science and significant input from the public.” If Californians want a legal fight, she said in a statement to the Guardian, “that’s their choice, we’ll see them in court”. “As biologists, we call those ecosystem inputs,” he says with a laugh. “I have confidence in the ability of the agencies to conduct real-time monitoring, and to adjust operations of the project based on real-time monitoring,” he says, noting that federal and state operations are already using these techniques to scan the estuary for turbid conditions that could attract smelt. Decades of water exports and environmental degradation under the state and federal governments have brought the smelt to the edge of extinction. “At this point, they barely register in the ecosystem.”. On a warm November morning, John Durand squints over the stern of a small research boat, and gestures toward gray-blue water, and the chaotic tangles of tube-like tule reeds. 19/25, Although protections of the delta smelt are not the cause of California’s water problems, the state’s water system does face threats. Their numbers dipped even lower after a period of extended drought in the late 80s and early 90s, then lower still during California’s most recent drought, which lasted from 2012 through 2016. It’s about the politics of “us” and “them.” 8/25, The delta smelt is listed under the Endangered Species Act. The smelt are poor swimmers, and they’re drawn to cloudy, turbid patches of water, where they like to hide and feed. Here it is a thread 1/25 pic.twitter.com/AlNYTCskdq, — Caleb Scoville (@calebscoville) October 14, 2020, The Real Meaning of Trump’s “Bizarre” Claims About California Water Politics: Trump’s recent behavior may be erratic, but his statements on California water politics have been remarkably consistent. It could take years for the full effects of the new policy and litigation to become apparent. The last time the UC Davis researchers caught one was in 2016. Not only is Newsom promoting the Delta Tunnel, but he is pushing the Sites Reservoir project and the Big Ag-backed voluntary agreements that, combined with the tunnel project, are likely to hasten the extinction of not only Delta smelt,  but also long fin smelt, Central Valley steelhead, winter and spring-run Chinook salmon, green sturgeon and an array of other fish species. The meantime, know what ’ s relationship with water is unsustainable of gallons of out! 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